stolen

Here’s What to Do If Your Credit Card Is Stolen

If your credit card is stolen, don’t go into a panic. It’s normal to feel angry or vulnerable, but keeping a level head and acting quickly will lessen potential financial injury. In fact, America First members have zero fraud liability if you quickly let us know about the situation. Here’s what to do if your credit card is missing.

See if you can find it

First, determine if you’re the victim of theft or you just misplaced your card. Retrace your steps and think of the last place you used it. Log in to your account and look at recent transactions. Pat down recently worn outfits, check under couch cushions, call any stores or restaurants you visited, and ask your spouse about it. Because when you report a card as stolen, it will be deactivated and replacing it may take a few days.

Turn It Off

If you have free Card Guard® mobile security from America First, you can turn off your Visa® as soon as you notice it’s missing. That will give you time to search those couch cushions one more time. If you find it, just press a button and turn your card on again. If your Visa doesn’t turn up and it’s off, whoever has it can’t use it.

Contact the card issuer

When you determine that your card is lost or stolen, contact your financial institution immediately. Have the following information ready to speed up the reporting process:

  • Your name
  • Which card was stolen
  • When it was stolen/lost
  • When and where it was last used

If your PIN was compromised, report that as well. Once reported as stolen/compromised, your card/PIN will be cancelled and new items will be issued. As previously mentioned, creating & delivering replacements can take a couple days, so be prepared to use another card or cash until then.

Review & update

Look over your monthly statement for unauthorized charges. If any appear that weren’t previously reported, let your institution know. Under federal law, if the transactions occur after the card is reported stolen, you cannot be held liable. And for those that took place before then, the maximum liability amount is $50.

And finally, when your new card is in your wallet, make sure to update your payment information for automatic transfers, such as your Netflix or cable bill. Not doing so can interrupt your movie, which could also induce panic attacks in some people.

tax refund

Five Wise Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

If you’re expecting a tax refund, it may be tempting to blow it all on hats or a gold-plated gadget, but there is a better use. After all, this isn’t a bonus from your company; it’s your money that the government borrowed and they’re giving it back to you. Using these funds wisely can alleviate stress and increase your sense of well-being. Here are five smart ways to make the most of your refund.

Invest

This isn’t limited to stocks & bonds, although it’s not a bad idea to enter the market. Investing in certificate accounts is a safe way to earn higher dividends. And even if you already have a 401(k) plan with your employer, you can start a separate IRA to diversify and create a secondary income stream. Alternatively, you can contribute to a new business or you could invest in people by donating to charitable causes—which can also be tax deductible.

Reduce Debt

There is no feeling quite like being debt-free. Why not use the money to lower your credit card balances? Pay off the one with the highest interest rate first, and if you have some money left over, start working on the next. You can also get ahead on your auto loan, your student loans & your mortgage principal. This may not seem as fun as buying things, but owing less to others gives you more buying power.

Build an Emergency Fund

If you don’t have one yet, a tax refund can help jump start your rainy-day savings. Even $500 can help soften the blow of unexpected costs. If you already have an emergency fund, keep working to save three to six months of expenses. Having this cushion will help if you ever suffer from job loss or medical issues.

Repair & Replace

Complete the maintenance projects you’ve been putting off. Fix broken shingles on your roof. Replace your car’s worn tires. Go to the dentist and take care of the tooth that’s been bothering you. Replace an old, energy-inefficient fridge or a malfunctioning oven. At times, spending a little on preventative care now will help prevent bigger bills down the road.

Make Memories

There’s no harm in treating yourself with your tax refund when your other financial responsibilities are handled. However, many people find that purchasing things isn’t as satisfying as gaining experiences. Take your spouse out to a nice dinner. Enjoy a family vacation. Go somewhere fun with your friends. Create memories that will last, instead of buying that quadcopter drone with GPS—after all, it’s likely to break before the month’s over.

move

Pack it Up: How to Save When You Move

No matter what your plans are, when you move it will always come with a price. If you do it yourself, it’s going to cost a lot more time. When you hire professionals, it means spending more money. It’s important to determine what’s of value to you. Regardless of the method you choose, here are some ways to save.

Getting Movers

Create a budget beforehand. Figure out all the pre-moving expenses and what it will take to get your new place up and running. Check prices online and get quotes from at least three companies. Be sure to clarify if they charge extra for long hauls, packing, assembly, stairs and storage. Talk to friends in the neighborhood and speak with folks at your destination about who they use.

Choose the off-season if possible. Most people move in the spring and summer months, since school is out and the weather is nice. However, some movers charge less between September and May. Scheduling for weekdays can also bring savings, since the demand is higher on the weekends.

Taking it on Yourself

First, figure out how much stuff you want to take. Sell things you don’t want to bring along to help offset the cost. Or use what you earned from a yard sale to help pay for furniture or electronics at your new home. Of course, it’s also less expensive to move fewer items—you won’t need an extra-large truck for a more modest set of belongings.

Carefully select the vehicle’s size. A larger one may come with a higher rate, but it will be less expensive than multiple trips with a smaller van. You can also rent helpful items, such as dollies or furniture pads, instead of buying them. And try to time your move directly from one location to another, instead of renting a storage shed.

Search for free boxes at local stores. You can also go online and look around your neighborhood for packing materials from those who have recently moved. And while you’re at it, ask friends & family to help. After all, you can usually pay volunteers in pizza.

If you’re changing cities for a new job, some employers will cover the relocation. Also, you can deduct certain expenses, so keep all related receipts. Please consult your accountant or a tax professional for details. Moving is never a fun experience, but careful planning and budgeting can ease your financial burden.

Take Control of Your Finances

We all want to improve & maintain our financial health. And with America First membership, you can use the following free services to accomplish that goal:

  • FICO® Scores—check your credit at any time using free online banking
  • Money manager—a convenient tool that tracks spending & saving in one place, even listing accounts at other institutions
  • Account e-alerts—custom notifications regarding transactions
  • Card Guard®—turn your Visa® on and off with this mobile app

No matter what objectives are, let America First help you achieve them. Get started today.

Now Is the Best Time to Benefit from America First Home Loans

With interest rates set to rise, now’s the perfect time to build, buy or refinance your home with America First.

  • Competitive options
  • Flexible terms & schedules
  • All your financial solutions under one roof

Build—with quick & easy financing, you can create the perfect home at your preferred price.

  • Customized to your needs
  • Discounts for bundling construction/home loans
  • Simple & convenient draw process

Buy—when you find your dream home, get hassle-free lending from a financial institution you trust.

  • Perfect for move-in-ready properties
  • Options with no closing costs
  • Step-by-step notifications

Refi—enjoy lower monthly payments while freeing up some extra funds.

  • Fixed rates available
  • Options with no closing costs
  • Flexible terms up to 15 years

Apply today.

Security: Spring Cleaning

It’s the season to de-clutter, upgrade technologies and streamline security—a spring-cleaning project for your digital life. To follow are some tips for getting it done:

  • Go through your computer & devices, discard old files and empty the recycle bin.
  • Organize your media in labeled folders.
  • Uninstall programs you don’t use to speed things up and bock malware potential.
  • Reinstall your operating system.
  • Back up important data.
  • Update security software, including antivirus, anti-spyware and anti-phishing programs.
  • Set up a firewall—major search engines can tell you how.
  • Sort through your email and toss out messages that aren’t relevant.
  • And finally, visit us here to learn more about protecting your information and financial resources.

Providing the Service & Support for Your Success

When it comes to finding the right merchant services provider, many business owners think the most important factor is low processing rates. However, there are many other aspects that come into play. Here are some critical features to consider.

Support

Live, immediate support at any hour of the day is essential because you don’t want to wait for an email reply if your terminal goes down. Your provider should be there when you set things up and remain available for troubleshooting down the road.

Security

It is imperative to protect your business and your customers from data breaches. Make sure your merchant services come with payment card industry (PCI) security standards. PCI protection plans keep you compliant and secure.

Simple agreements

Long-term contracts may seem like a great deal at first, with initially low rates and leases for terminals. However, they also tend to include early-termination penalties and other hidden fees. A month-to-month contract with no lease agreement is the best way to go.

Fair rates

If the advertised rate seems too good to be true, it probably is. Take time to discuss pricing solutions with your potential provider and ask about multiple options. If yours is a business that processes $200 a month, for instance, you don’t want to be under the same structure as one that does $250,000 a month.

Summary

At America First, support is our top priority. We offer 24-hour live service, one-on-one training, installation assistance, continuing education and high-quality member care. And we have a variety of PCI protection plans with coverage options to fit your specific needs.

With our merchant services, you won’t have to worry about long-term contracts, hidden fees & early-termination penalties. Our hardware is reasonably priced, our rates are competitive, and we’re always available to discuss any issues of concern. Visit americafirst.com for additional details or contact our experts at (801) 827-2614

certificate

Certificate Account Specifics

Savings accounts are good places to deposit your money, especially if you’re with a financial institution that offers competitive dividends. But if you want to take your savings to the next level, consider opening a certificate. These accounts reward long-term planning, and they’re one of the easiest & safest investments you can make.

How does it work?

Certificates are virtually risk free. Funds are insured by the federal government and is held in a similar manner as savings accounts. They are time deposits, meaning you will earn fixed dividends for a pre-determined amount of time, ranging from a couple months to a few years, depending on your preferred investment strategy.

Generally speaking, the longer the term of the certificate, the better the rate. If you make a withdrawal before the maturity date, however, you’ll pay a penalty fee. Make sure you can commit to keeping the funds there before opening one.

You can deposit the monthly dividends you earn on your certificate investment into another account, such as your savings or checking, or re-invest them into the certificate account to benefit from compound interest. As your certificate’s term nears its end, you’ll be notified of when you can take out your money or roll it over into a new certificate account. After that date, the money will stay in the account until the certificate matures again.

What certificates are available?

America First offers many options to fit your financial wants & needs.

  • Regular – Low minimum-deposit levels with higher yields
  • Bump – Provide one-time rate increases
  • Dedicated savings – Set up automatic deposits for future occasions
  • Flexible – Get quarterly access with no penalties
  • IRA – Boost your retirement savings
  • Ladder – Set up periodic maturity dates for consistent access

How do I open one?

At America First, it’s simple. Visit americafirst.com, call 1-800-999-3961 or stop by your local branch—and start letting your money make money.

limit

Raising the Roof—Increasing Your Credit Limit

A credit card is like a chain saw—if used correctly, it can be a great tool. But if it’s mishandled, the results can be disastrous. Increasing your limit is a helpful way to gain more spending power, but it must be done responsibly to gain the benefits.

Why should I increase it?

If you’re a responsible cardholder who regularly pays the entire balance every month, yet still find yourself repeatedly maxing out your card, you may have outgrown your credit line. Increased expenses, after all, are common as people get older, marry & have children. Raising your limit gives you more flexibility with your spending.

Another reason to boost your limit is to cover big expenses, such as a new vehicle or an extended vacation. Increasing your credit line can also be useful in the event of any emergency situations that may arise. Plus, with a Visa® from America First, you will enjoy quarterly rebates on every dollar you spend.

When should I apply to raise my credit limit?

It’s important to achieve financially stability before you request an increase. If your payment history is spotty or your credit score is low, you may not be approved in the first place. While a boost in credit may trigger a hard pull on your credit report, a higher limit could actually help raise your score in the long run. This is because your credit utilization ratio—an element that credit reporting agencies use to calculate your score—measures how much debt you have available, compared to what you regularly tap into. Keeping that percentage of used credit low in relation to your potential will help improve your overall score.

How can I accomplish this?

Raising your limit is actually quite simple. Usually you’ll fill out an online application or contact your financial institution. If you’ve proven yourself as a responsible borrower, your request will likely be approved. And don’t hesitate to discuss your current financial situation with the card issuer to determine what credit card limit is right for you.

birthday

Birthday Freebies—Celebrate with Deals Just for You

Eating out on your birthday doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Many restaurants offer free food or drinks when you sign up for their lists or loyalty clubs, and all it costs is getting some emails. You can even create folders specifically for these deals so the marketing messages don’t overwhelm your primary account.

And you don’t have to visit all of these places in one day, either—that would be deliciously impractical. Most discounts won’t expire for a week or two and some are good for your entire birth month. These birthday offerings are subject to change, though, and most require advance registration, so please check their official sites for details.

  • A&W Restaurants – free root beer float
  • Arby’s – free small shake with sandwich purchase
  • Applebee’s – free treat
  • Baskin-Robbins® – free ice cream scoop
  • Benihana – $30 gift certificate
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – $5 off purchases of $25 or more
  • Cafe Rio – $5 credit towards one purchase
  • Chili’s – free dessert
  • Cinemark Theatres – free large popcorn
  • Cold Stone Creamery – buy-one, get-one-free ice cream
  • Corner Bakery Cafe – free sweet
  • Costa Vida – free dessert
  • Dairy Queen – BOGO Blizzard® shakes
  • Del Taco – free premium shake
  • Denny’s – free Grand Slam® breakfast
  • Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – free classic sandwich
  • Dunkin’ Donuts – free beverage
  • Einstein Bros. Bagels free egg sandwich with purchase
  • Famous Dave’s – buy one entrée, get the second 1/2-off
  • Firehouse Subs – free medium sandwich
  • IHOP – free Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity® pancakes
  • Jamba Juice – free smoothie or juice drink
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs – free regular sandwich & 22-ounce fountain drink
  • Krispy Kreme – free doughnut & beverage
  • LongHorn® Steakhouse – free dessert
  • Olive Garden – free dessert
  • Orange Julius BOGO drinks
  • Pizza Hut – free breadsticks or cinnamon sticks
  • Red Robin – free burger
  • Rumbi Island Grill – free dessert with purchase
  • Smashburger – free side or milkshake
  • Starbucks – free beverage or treat
  • Texas Roadhouse – free appetizer with purchase
  • TGI Fridays – free dessert with purchase
  • The Habit Burger Grill – free Charburger
  • The Melting Pot – free chocolate fondue
  • Tucanos Brazilian Grill – buy one meal, get one free
  • Zaxby’s – free Nibbler sandwich

Have a happy and frugal birthday!